An Interview with Jahvoy
Section I: Episode 11
September 28, 2014
Tonight a court of pleasure for the most important citizens of Ieik, the White Tables served most of the year as an outdoor forum for governance. The Tables were real, forming a perimeter around a rectangular plaza. They were built of moonstone and formed into curvaceous sculptures of abstract divinity, and punctuated with broad, flat, polished, and eminently pragmatic tops. It was here at these tables whence the destiny of Ieik had always been counseled, for thousands of years.
Each table had two blank wooden seats, both on one side looking inward to the plaza. The White Tables and their whitewood seats served as the manifestation of the offices of the people who sat there. Depending on the day, those people could be dignitaries, or honored guests, or foreign visitors, or some of the village's leaders who had nothing on the agenda. To sit at the White Tables was to have the privilege to speak. In a village of a few thousand people, there were seats here for only about thirty, but by Ieik's meritocratic and egalitarian nature most of the Ieikilii received that privilege from time to time in the course of their lives.
For those who wished simply to listen, assemblies of the general public could gather freely in the plaza inside the perimeter of tables, and here a hundred could fit comfortably, or several hundred in a scrunch. Tonight that plaza was a dance floor, and there were people dancing there now, spirits high, inhibitions low, and libations freely flowing.
But the marble-paved terraces set upon a small hill at the west end of the forum, these were the greatest of the White Tables. The village's top leaders and their personal guests sat here, in several tables upon the lower two terraces of the west end of the plaza. On the lower terrace were the Stewards General, who governed. Above them, on the second terrace, were the Meriters, who maintained the List of Merits.
And then, on the final terrace, was the River of Ignorance, the First Citizen of Ieik, and whomever else the River wished to invite. The River's White Table was smaller, and round, with seats all around, and from this top terrace the River and anyone else could see not just the forum but nearly all of Ieik, and nearly all of the Hidden Bowl, the chasm in which Ieik itself dwelled, protected from the unremitting winds above.
Tonight of course was no mere village business, but Dawn's Eve, a festival day, and the day before the most important holiday of the year, not only in the Village of Ieik but throughout most of Relance: the Day of the Dawn.
As Galavar and Ornithate returned to the White Tables and climbed the steps to the River's Table, they went from admiring the dancing and the music to wondering at the emerging view. When they reached the pinnacle, the entire festival grounds sprawled out before them, so many hopeful lights under the starry summer sky.
Jahvoy, the River, was the only person there at the moment. The other seats were empty. He saw them and rose, slim and vivacious, and flashed them that big, toothy smile that only the truly gregarious could claim to understand.
"Galavar and Ornithate, good evening!" He extended his left and right arms all the way out to his sides, and bared his palms at them. They returned his greeting and he bade them sit down, but Galavar remained standing, staring out at the sight.
"You enjoy a good view, I see."
"Those are apt words, River. 'I see' indeed. What a wonderful spectacle, and tonight no less."
"Congratulations to both of you on your impressive performance in the Summer Spring Relay this afternoon."
"Thanks!" said Ornithate.
"You especially, Ornithate."
She blushed. "Thank you."
Galavar blushed too. He had been the worst performer on Team Javelin today, and though perhaps it was true that those extra few moments short of total victory could have come from any one of them, they could have come most easily from him. But he didn't turn toward the River. He remained fixed on the incredible landscape. Above the glow of Ieik he could make out the highest ridges, for it was there that blackness turned to stars. It was all very big to him.
"Thank you for seeing us, River," he said.
"Tell me what happened."
"We were walking from the Athletes' Tables down to the music stages, and we talked about how we hoped we would hear from Sourros this year."
"Since he didn't speak last year at the Feast of Feats, or the year before that," Ornithate added. "Galavar said that we here in Ieik are supposed to be the closest to Sourros among all the Kindred, and he wondered why Sourros doesn't speak to us more often. That's when I said we could ask him. I meant at the Fateful Well—"
"But I said that Sourros can hear us from anywhere." Galavar turned around and joined them at the table, taking his seat at last. He'd never sat here before, at the River's Table. It made him tingle.
Ornithate continued, "And you said that, if Sourros is inclined to answer, we can ask him a question from anywhere."
"So I did. I asked him why he doesn't speak to us more often."
"Your exact words were 'Why not, Sourros?'"
The River laughed. "Very direct! And it would seem Sourros answered you?"
"Sourros spoke the very instant after Galavar's question," Ornithate insisted.
Jahvoy nodded, and said "Sourros' words I have committed to memory. He said:
yet most of it the Kindred have never trod.
Depart from the roads of knowing
and be reaved of all clarity.
Let the Tolgal alive in your birr.
Go in these late years and determine the
Relance once thought.
This I implore you,
on the Eve of the Dawn."
"You mentioned the Kindred in your conversation?" Jahvoy continued.
Ornithate gripped the table, she was so excited. "That's just one more piece of evidence that Sourros answered Galavar directly."
"It wouldn't be unprecedented," the River said. "It does happen sometimes that Sourros speaks both in reply to a specific question and with his voice ascending upon the entire village."
"It doesn't happen very often to us!" Ornithate said.
"I understand. It was rather a cryptic proclamation, wasn't it?"
"What do you think it means?" she demanded.
"I don't possess that opinion, certainly not yet. But I conjecture that, because Sourros spoke to the town, it was meant for all of us to hear."
"What's a birr?" she asked.
"It has several meanings. It refers to a favorable wind, which we know as the Bire. It also refers to the vigor inside a person. But in this case Sourros was probably referring to our sparks. In the ancient Yli language, the word for a person's spark literally means 'fiery wind.' It has come to our language in the word birr. When Sourros told us to let the Tolgal come alive in our birrs, I may speculate that we have been told to be enthusiastic about life. But at this point I stress that I dare only call it a speculation."
"What about most of the world never having been trod?"
"That's the most interesting part, to me. The cadence of Sourros' words is important. I and others have the early hypothesis that Sourros told us that the world we know is much smaller than the world that can be."
Galavar furrowed his brow.
"What is it?" the River asked.
"Sourros has said such things from time to time. We've studied his words in school. But Sourros only rarely speaks in this way. Such words tread on the domain of—" his voice caught for just an instant "—Derishodsa."
"You are a good student. It is rare indeed that Sourros encourages us to action, if indeed he has done so tonight."
"And this is, after all, the Eve of the Dawn."
Now it was Jahvoy's turn to contort his face—in surprise.
"Well done, Galavar. I must have spoken about this to forty people by now, and you are the first to point out the obvious."
"Em…" Ornithate raised her hand, "what's obvious?"
The River looked at her gravely.
"Forgive me. It is not so obvious after all. To understand, we must speak of the Day of the Dawn."
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!